Scientometrics 2.0: academic reputation and networks

The initiative Scientometrics 2.0: academic reputation and networks set itself the goal of identifying and differentiating the potential of social media for evaluating research output. A pilot project at the University of St. Gallen analysed how researchers at the school of economics interact on academic social networking platforms. The overall aim was to deduce measurements of how research output is recognized within the academic community, and subsequently to analyse the measurements by means of a comparison with established metrics of “scientific impact”. Thus, the debate on a viable way to increase the visibility of research output was enhanced by the addition of an innovative inclusion of new media and the analysis of novel evaluation tools.

Currently, evaluating research output is largely rooted in bibliometric analyses, especially analyses of publications in scholarly journals. This approach undoubtedly has advantages (peer review, motivation to publish), but repeatedly earns criticism for being one-sided and error-prone. As a result, new Internet-based tools to measure recognition of research output within the academic community are being introduced to complement established bibliometric approaches. Webometrics enables a more precise analysis of the impact of publications by transparently presenting data such as access dates, downloads and citations. This explains why established online players such as Google are increasingly becoming significant suppliers of tools to evaluate research. Online platforms thus contribute to the efficiency and transparency of evaluating research.

By contrast, the potential of social media in the evaluation of research output remains largely unrealised. Social media rely on user participation, simple dissemination of content, and flat communication hierarchies as well as on networking and largely open interaction. As such, they embody numerous potential ways of depicting the online recognition of individual researchers. Approaches incorporating analyses of social networking allow an overview of network structures and of the role, or prominence, of individual users within a network, thus enhancing the visibility of recognition and appreciation of participating researchers – and of their work. Initial empirical analyses demonstrate that the interpretation of social media data can contribute to a factual recognition of research output by quickly and efficiently highlighting the academic community’s awareness of, and interest for, research findings.

At the University of St. Gallen, a cohort of 30 professors entered into a cooperation with ResearchGate, the world’s largest social networking platform for researchers, to explore how the analysis of social media data can contribute to evaluating research output. The project aim was to identify which social media data enable coherent statements on how the academic community recognises research output – and on the potential the research has of being accepted within the community. The project was conducted in collaboration with the University of Neuchatel, which places particular focus on analyses of research and publication collaborations and thus contributes to the validation of data and measurements generated in social media.